It’s heady times in the IP Wars.
There’s nothing a film studio or television network loves more than a sure thing. But, of course, sure things don’t really exist, outside of a few too-big to fail franchises, such as Marvel, Star Wars and, somehow, the Fast and the Furious films.
Even when a Star Wars film is seen as a disappointment, such as the wildly unnecessary 2018 prequel “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” it's only a flop by Star Wars' own massive standards, and is still bigger than most other films that year.
The problem is that there’s only so many beloved, widely recognized franchises out there, and the ones that were, until very recently, unaccounted for are so valuable that Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report founder Jeff Bezos paid one billion dollars to bring a “Lord of the Rings” show to Amazon Prime.
If you’re prone to complain that the only thing you can see at your local theater is some sort of franchise or sequel, well, you’re completely correct. But studios are increasingly reluctant to spent much money on anything that doesn’t seem like a safe bet, as there are quarterly numbers to hit and jobs on the line.
That’s not to say that there are no big films based on original ideas, as Netflix (NFLX) - Get Free Report has paid Rian Johnson handsomely to turn his whodunnit caper “Knives Out” into a streaming franchise, and “John Wick” went from a word-of-mouth hit into its own cinematic universe in one of the most strangely heartwarming developments of the ‘10s. (This is, after all, a series where Keanu Reeves kills someone with a book.)
The box office is a beast that must be fed. And if a studio is just too nervous to roll the dice on a new idea, the other option is to look deep into its catalog of intellectual property.
No company is as willing to brazenly mine its portfolio for characters (or maybe the more accurate term would be “concept” or really “things people might have heard of”) as Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report.
This is, after all, a company that once turned the theme park ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” into a hit film that even earned Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination. (And to be fair, people really enjoyed that film at the time. But a lot has changed since then.)
But even by those standards, Disney’s latest project is rather surprising, as is one of the members of the creative team.
What Is Seth Rogen Doing With Disney?
Disney has enlisted actor, writer, director and unofficial cannabis enthusiast Seth Rogen to develop and produce, through his company Point Grey, a film based on the character Figment.
You know, Figment?
The purple dragon mascot of Epcot's Imagination Pavilion at Walt Disney World in Orlando? The one that was created in 1983 by the Imagineers (Disney’s euphemism for theme parks engineers and designers) Tony Baxter and Steve Kirk? The character that first appeared at Epcot's Journey Into Imagination Ride in 1983? The character that is supposed to embody the phrase “figment of the imagination?” Why are you acting like you’ve never heard of Figment?
Hardcore Disney Fans Really Love Figment
Ok, jokes aside, this is a rather, let’s say, deep cut on the part of Disney.
But while the general public may be a bit unfamiliar with the character, unless they’ve taken their kids to Epcot lately, Comicbook.com says he was “an instant fan favorite and has remained popular ever since and attempts over the years to remove the Journey Into Imagination ride or limit Figment's park presence have never gone over well.” He’s also expected to get his own meet and greet.
Figment has also appeared in “Disney Kingdoms: Figment” a five-part comic book miniseries published by Disney and Marvel comics in 2014, as well as its follow up, Disney Kingdoms: Figment 2 in 2015, and he also had cameos in both “Toy Story 4” and “Inside Out.”
So even if the character seems a bit obscure, he does have a fanbase, as well as a comic to pull story ideas from.
There’s also plenty of examples of the right creative team turning a property into a successful film, even if it seems strange on paper. Besides the pedigree of Rogen, the film will be written by the team of Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit. They previously scripted the 2019 film “Detective Pikachu,” which earned qualified good reviews that roughly translated to “better than you’d think for a film based on a children’s trading card game.”
If the team made that work, then it's not that difficult to imagine Figment turning out ok.